How Roe vs. Wade could change after the Supreme Court decides if it should be overturned

Our ProPublica reporting and reporting by other organizations and journalists paints an already complex picture, but here are four likely outcomes (in order of likelihood):

“A narrow 5-4 decision” (20% chance)

If the Supreme Court narrows the scope of abortion law as expected in Harris v. Quinn (discussed in the video above), that decision might make it easier for states to legislate restrictions on women’s reproductive healthcare — or it might lead to higher Medicaid funding for legal abortion services than for clinics. Either way, that would reduce access for many women.

“Gutted” or “limited” (25% chance)

Not only would lower-court decisions sharply limit abortion rights, but at least two other cases would be heard before the Supreme Court that challenge key provisions of Roe. These three cases, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (discussed in the video above), Texas v. United States (discussed in the video below) and Hill v. Colorado (discussed in the video below), would further limit abortion rights and compel states to continue using laws that would put abortion clinics out of business.

“Relief” or “Legalization” (50% chance)

If the Supreme Court rules for the challengers (Harris v. Quinn), in effect overturning Roe, not only would abortion rights be very limited by the majority opinion, but the Court will have set up a scenario where future justices would feel less pressure to either defend abortion rights or preserve them for future generations. And then if that kind of injunction on abortion were to be lifted, abortion would be less safe, less accessible to low-income women and many more women would die. It would be a terrible message to send all the children in America if the Supreme Court said that taking a life and punishing a mother is a lawful cause.

This is not necessarily what Roe was intended to achieve, and justices shouldn’t automatically follow the will of the public. What the Court does now — even if a large majority votes for an opinion that declares the precedents already in place unsustainable — could be the most important abortion policy decision of our lifetime. We must speak out now.

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